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Archive for February, 2013

Reaching for my dreams

Feb. 28, 2013, under call to action, goals, opinions, philosophy, space t/e/d

When I was five years old, I decided I wanted to be an astronaut. That’s still a core part of my objectives, but in the intervening years additional layers and other things have gotten added. Now when people ask me what I want to do with my life, I say “I want to build a privately funded space exploration and development company, move off-planet as a free and sovereign individual, and make [a lot of] money in the process.” (In this context, the meaning of sovereign being used is “independent of outside authority” rather than “supreme in rank, power or authority” – i.e., the way citizens of the United States of America are supposed to be “sovereign citizens.”)

My ambition is to build space colonies at L5, and manufacture solar power satellites for installation in geostationary orbit.  Accomplishing those objectives will be a bigger undertaking than anything that has ever been done before.  In spite of the daunting size of the project, it’s something that has to be done before we run out of oil or civilization will implode, and humanity itself may not survive.  Once the system is built, however, we can look forward to a reliable and effectively eternal supply of energy that’s cheaper than what we have now, with practically no pollution, and the whole investment could be repaid in 30 years at an extremely reasonable rate of ten cents per kilowatt/hour.

Humanity needs a frontier where misfits and malcontents can go to live their different lives without disturbing or being disturbed by the mainstream community.  There is no longer anywhere on Earth that can truly be called a frontier.  Life on a frontier also spurs people into a creative resourcefulness that yields innovation in often totally unexpected ways.  The Earth’s population is over seven billion people, most of whom live in or near poverty.  If everyone had the affluent lifestyle of the comfortably well-to-do of the industrialized societies, there wouldn’t be enough resources to go around.  The only way to fix that problem is to get more resources – which can only be done from beyond Earth’s boundaries – in space.  We have to go to space to survive!

I’m an extremely creative person – which is both a boon and a bane.  On one hand, it allows me to figure out a solution for nearly every problem that’s thrown at me – but not necessarily where to find the time or resources needed to implement the solution.  On the other hand, quite often in the process of solving one problem, I end up working on another one – often because the new problem is part of the solution for the first one.  “They” say that before you do anything, you have to do something else.  What “they” don’t tell you is it’s a recursive problem.  Some years ago I guesstimated that I had seventeen lifetimes worth of work that I need to get back to – stuff that got pushed to the back burner by something else having to be done first.  Sometimes it seems like I need to turn my creativity off to be able to get anything done.  That thought, however, falls smack in the middle of “be careful what you wish for” – it’s not something I would really want to have happen.  What has happened is that I’ve ended up with countless projects and ideas that I’m going to get to “one of these days” – when I have nothing to do, and a staff to do it with!

I don’t come from a wealthy background:  My parents made enough of their fortune to be comfortable in their retirement years, in spite of having five somewhat problematic children.  Without their pensions feeding the kitty, though, I don’t expect what they leave behind will last long.  I’ve “joked” for most of my life that my inheritance has fourteen zeros and a minus sign – but it looks like I might have underestimated the number of zeros.  I wish it were a joke, but the US national debt is so large that it’s approaching the point where it could never be paid back.  I dread the day when that happens – especially since most of the rest of the world is in the same boat, or even worse off.

The net result of all of this is I’m trying to figure out how to get from where I am, with effectively nothing, to being able to borrow trillions of dollars so that I can solve some of the biggest problems that have ever faced humanity.  This is probably the most important puzzle that’s ever been presented to my creativity, and I’m embarrassed to say that, even after all this time, I still haven’t figured it out.

I would like to be spending my time on finishing the redesign of the L5 Development Group Web site, getting the L5 National Bank set up, building public awareness through Space Power Now, starting real development of the LunaRobots project, establishing as a vibrant community of like-minded people who actually want to move off-planet with me – so many things to do, and I know I can’t do them all myself.  Financial reality, however, is preventing me from making significant progress on any of those goals:  I’m so busy trying to figure out how to cover this month’s bills that I can’t even begin to think about where to raise the first million dollars, let alone where to find the trillions that will be needed to bring this dream to fruition.

Now I find myself once again looking for projects I can use to fill my coffers, identifiable and (fairly) well defined tasks where I can come in, bring my diverse range of experience to bear to solve a problem, then move on once the job is done and I’ve been paid for my work.  I’m not looking for a “safe” career of spending a long time building an empire in someone else’s organization, doing their work:  I have enough (too many?) projects and prospects of my own that I want and need to be working on: My career is in my company.  In order to continue getting paying projects, though, I know that when I do a job, I have to do it well:  A reputation for shoddy workmanship is one I wouldn’t want to try to work past.

Instead of me working for an employer, I need to have other people working for me – hundreds of thousands of them, millions even.  If anybody has any solid, actionable suggestions about how I can get from where I am to where I need to be, I want to hear them – and sooner is much better than later.  Filling time covering nothing more than the current bills isn’t going to allow me to progress to the next level, and beyond.  I really do want to fix the world, and before we run out of time.  Your feedback, comments and suggestions will be sincerely appreciated.

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It’s time *now* to avert the oil and energy crisis!

Feb. 25, 2013, under call to action, opinions, space t/e/d

We are going to run out of oil.  Before that happens, we are going to run out of cheap energy.  When that happens, there’s going to be starvation, civil unrest, warfare and the collapse of civilization – maybe even the end of humanity if the wars get too far out of hand.

This isn’t a disaster that’s just going to fall on America, or only on the industrialized parts of the world:  This is going to affect every human being on the planet, except perhaps jungle dwellers and aborigines who are largely independent of civilization.  If the downfall of civilization results in nuclear warfare, however, even those hapless tribes will not be unscathed.

When is this horrible disaster going to befall us?  That’s hard to say because the estimates of how much oil is left are just that – estimates – and the numbers being touted by various groups vary wildly.  The most optimistic predictions tell us there are reserves for 150 years, pessimists predict a tenth of that time.  In any case, as we get closer to the bottom of the barrel, the cost of retrieving the oil is going to skyrocket which will signal the beginning of the end.  Many of the projections assume that oil consumption is going to level out, or even decline.  Neither of those conditions is going to occur:  More people are using more oil every day, and as long as there is oil available, that’s not going to change.

Modern civilization is totally dependent on oil:  Huge amounts are burned up every day in our transportation systems, to provide heat, and to generate electricity.  In addition, nearly everything made out of plastic started out as oil.  Plastic is being used for everything – containers, plumbing, vinyl siding, cell phones, car bodies, etc., etc.  I would be very surprised to meet anyone living in the civilized world who didn’t own anything made of plastic – and most of us have lots of things that are.  As we raise the standard of living for everyone on the planet, the demand for more plastic – and more oil for fuel – is just going to go up.

Eventually the current demand for oil and oil products is going to exceed the total production capacity.  When that happens, civilization will start to collapse.

There is a way to avert this disaster – but the window of opportunity is rapidly passing by.  The death of civilization can be avoided, but only by developing a replacement energy supply.  Doing so is going to take a tremendous investment of effort, and will require a substantial amount of time – and energy.  If we wait too long, there won’t be enough time left to build a replacement energy source.

Fossil fuels – oil, coal, gas – have stored the Sun’s energy that fell on the Earth in the past.  Over the course of the last one hundred fifty years we have burned through a large portion of the stored solar energy from millions of years gone by.

The only feasible energy source that can serve as a replacement for oil is direct collection of solar power.  Trying to collect solar power at the Earth’s surface to run all of our modern civilization, however, is not practical:  The Sun is overhead only part of a day, and may be obscured by clouds in the air or snow on the ground.  Solar collectors take up a lot of space, and the power consumed by a city far exceeds the amount of solar power falling directly on it.

Because of the problems with trying to collect it on the ground, solar power is generally ruled out as a viable replacement for oil power.  It is those very problems that make it imperative for us to build a network of solar power satellites in orbit, where the Sun is always shining, and beam the power to the ground.  Only then can we hope to have enough area in the collectors to be able to gather all of the energy needed to support a power-hungry civilization and make it cheaply available.

Building a constellation of solar power satellites is going to require a tremendous investment, and it’s not going to happen overnight.  We must get started NOW, however, or the end of civilization predicted above will befall us.

I’ve started Space Power Now! as a vehicle for raising public awareness of the critical nature of the energy crisis looming in the near future, and how solar power delivered from satellites in Earth orbit is the only reasonable long-term solution.  Please, visit the site, participate, and let’s make it happen! The future of humanity depends on it!

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The sky is white

Feb. 24, 2013, under astrophysics, philosophy

The universe is infinite and an open topology.  This means you could start out anywhere in space and go forever without being any closer to “the edge of space” than you were when you started.

One of the objections posed against this concept is that if the universe were truly infinite, then there would be a light source in every direction you looked.  As a result, the sky would have to be white because there would be a light source somewhere in every direction.  The dark night sky is therefore taken as refuting the idea that the universe is infinite.

Well, the sky is white – if you’re looking in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Does that count?  Well, yes it does:  The more energetic photons that started out as visible light some nearly infinite distance away have passed through an unfriendly universe on their way to us:  Collisions and near misses with other photons, space warped by gravity wells, other hazards we haven’t even discovered yet – these all suck energy out of passing light.  When electromagnetic energy is lost, the photons fall down the spectrum:  Extremely energetic photons of hard X-rays become soft ones, ultraviolet becomes violet, green shifts to yellow, red to infrared, infrared to microwave.  Given enough distance, a photon will eventually run out of energy, having dissipated everything it started with into the intervening void.  We’ve been taught that a photon starts out with a certain amount of energy and always has that same amount, but it doesn’t really work that way when you look on a large enough scale.

This doesn’t bode well for the evidence assumed to be supporting the Big Bang theory – red-shift:  Instead of being a result of accelerating expansion at larger distances, red shift is caused by a much more mundane effect – light running out of energy – its energy being dissipated into the void by the nature of the universe.

There are several other problems with the Big Bang:  If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?  Isn’t the universe (by definition) everything that exists?  The red shift is assumed to be a measure of the rate of the universe’s expansion:  Things that are farther away are all older and red shifted more because they have been accelerating longer.  Well, no:  It has taken the light from distant objects longer to get to us than from closer ones and the photons have just had more time and distance to lose energy.  Does it really make sense that there would only be extremely old objects in the great distances and none nearby?

Gravity isn’t the result of the surface of the Earth accelerating away from the center of the core at 9.8 meters per second per second.  A much more likely explanation is that the mass of the Earth is shielding us from the skyful of photons that would bombarding us from the other side, so those from the sky above us pins us down just as if there were a mysterious vacuum pump sucking us toward the center of the Earth.

I’m working on developing to discuss and disseminate information about the physics and philosophy behind, about and derived from the concept of an open infinite universe.  Feel free to check it out.

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